For Instructors – a wake up call – Kathy Jackson


A few things to learn from a medical emergency on the range as reported <here>. According to eyewitnesses, at an action pistol match, one person was pasting targets in one bay while another person was shooting a stage in the next bay over. One of the shooter’s rounds apparently ricocheted (or traveled directly through) a crack in the concrete barriers separating the two bays, striking the taper in the chest.

The linked article has more to say, but — in part because of my current writing project which is a book for instructors — I’m thinking about instructors today. What do instructors need to learn from incidents like this?

1) Safety is not “everyone’s job.” It is the job of each one of us, individually. This means sometimes we will need to speak up … individually.

In my travels, I have at (rare) times declined to teach a class on particular ranges or bays when I did not like the setup. In nearly every case, someone said to me, “Kathy, I don’t understand. Why are you making such a big deal out of this? People shoot on this range all the time, and nobody else has had a problem with it.” The implication being that I was being snooty, difficult to work with, arrogant, or a combination of all three. In every case, my answer was the same: I’m not responsible for what other people do on ranges they control, but in my classes, I am responsible, 100%, for what happens on my range and to my students.

That’s not an easy line to hold, but the alternative is to “let” things like this happen on our watch. I’m willing to bet that at least a one or two of the shooters at this match did not much like the stage setup when they first saw it — but then were too shy or too intimidated to speak up. Or didn’t know who to talk to about it. Or talked themselves out of saying anything because nobody else seemed to see anything wrong.

Now one guy has a bullet in his chest. That’s not okay.

We have to be confident and stand up for safety. When we see something that’s not as safe as it reasonably could be, we have to be brave enough to step up and change it. Even if other people have shot in that bay before and “didn’t have a problem with it.”

2) Part of being a good instructor is learning how to ‘read’ a range for safety.

I’m not an architect or a range designer, but part of being a good instructor is learning how to ‘read’ a range. Are the berms high enough for your planned activities? Will they still be high enough when the angles change? Are the berms in good condition? Are there any gaps or low spots? What will you do about them?

It’s not enough to spot trouble. We need to know what to do about when we see it. Usually it’s just a simple matter of moving the shooters around, or changing the angles some other way. Sometimes it will take some serious thinking and maybe it will take a significant change to the planned curriculum. But in no case is it okay to spot a problem and then shrug it off as Too Much Trouble to fix.


Sorry for shouting, but this is hugely important. A medical kit is about as useless as tits on a bull unless there’s someone there who knows how to use it. That someone should be you — even if you always poll your students and find out who has appropriate medical training so you can assign the task to the person with the highest level of training, there will be times when you find out that you are that person. That nobody else knows even as much as you do. That you’re the one in the hot seat.

If your medical knowledge was the only medical knowledge immediately available when one of your students got shot in the chest, would you know what to do? Would you be able to do it?

If you have not had recent, relevant, repeated training in what to do for a gunshot wound, get thee to a class!

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